Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: A herpesvirus engineered to specifically target triple-negative breast cancer cells is showing promise in in vitro studies. This type of breast cancer causes 20% of cases but isn't estrogen-receptor dependent, and thus can't be targeted by those drugs. However, these cancers have high levels of pMAPK, a phosphorylated signal cascade protein. The herpesvirus attacks these cells, shown up to 90% effective in petri dishes and in mouse models.
This is pretty cool, especially if it's replicable in humans. I'm not sure I understand the biology (how does the intracellular levels of pMAPK make a difference to the virus? I would have thought that the virus would be targeted to a specific cell surface receptor for entry). However, a few key properties will probably be interesting clinically, based on what we know about these viruses.
1. Herpesvirus causes local infection. That means that it can be specifically targeted to the cancer site, but also that it may not work for metastases.
2. Herpesviruses are latent. Does this mean that they'll stick around to screw up the patient later, or perhaps provide lasting protection against recurring cancer?
In any case, it's been an exciting time for herpesviruses—Alzheimer cause, cure for cancer? Also, we need a new "chemotherapy" term for viruses. "Vironcotherapy?"